Retro Game of the Day! Codename: Viper
Codename: Viper by Capcom, released in 1989 for the 8-Bit NES.
Now, here we have a game which has always confounded me. Coming off of the heels of a string of several extremely successful franchises on the system, how could a respected company such as Capcom see fit to develop and publish a game like this, which is so obviously a rip-off of competitor Namco's popular game Rolling Thunder?
Some other companies I wouldn't be too surprised, but Capcom just seemed very out of character in doing this. It's not like many games don't directly borrow from one another, but this seemed very unprecedented. I have long had a theory this was due in part to the fact that Namco and Nintendo had a long-running feud of dubious proportions, and though Rolling Thunder was a popular game for some time, it had never shown up properly in console form. Yes, it released for NES on the Tengen label, but this was not exactly with Nintendo's blessing. I always figured someone at Capcom saw this as an opportunity to cash-in, really.
Doing research for this writeup, I have learned that a disgruntled former Namco employee was working at Capcom and had his fingerprints all over this game; even going so far as to design the enemy boss after his own former lead. If Internet Rumors are truthful, there's an interesting story for certain.
To the point, then. Essentially, Codename:Viper is a very shameless ripoff of Rolling Thunder, in gameplay style and execution. It adds a little (rescuing hostages, piecing together notes for a story) but essentially the way the game works and plays is absolutely the same, from the way you move, powerup, and die, to the way that you can duck in and out of doorways. All of these mechanics were very original to Rolling Thunder and seeing them so dutifully duplicated here makes one scratch his chin. At least the theme is altogether different; rather than infiltrating Alien hideouts, you're pursuing South American drug cartels.
It's not a bad game at all; despite the fishy nature of everything, the game can be quite fun to play, although really the whole effort feels inferior to the source material (sorry Capcom!) Also, I always felt the main character's movement and animations looked a little sloppy compared to the sleek and suave Rolling Thunder dude. This game has some pretty graphics and jazzin' Capcom-style NES chiptunes, so there is some stuff in here to groove on. But really, it's just a half-hearted ripoff in all aspects of another game - a curious pitstop down the highway of Videogame History, however.